Pun-al Substitution

Andrew Perriman blogged about the interaction between myself and Michael Bird about the penal substitution theory of the atonement. His reckoning suggests that the biggest difference between conservatives and liberals/progressives might be the willingness of the latter to make puns and other jokes about “penile substitution.” He may or may not be right. But in [Read More...]

Problems With Penal Substitution

DISAMBIGUATION: This blog post is not about penile substitution – for information on that topic, go here. Penal substitution is a phrase used to describe a particular view of the atonement, which says that Jesus took the place of the guilty in bearing God’s judgment due to them. Mike Bird (responding to William Walker) and Andrew Perriman (responding [Read More...]

When God Became the Devil

I thought I should share what Richard Beck wrote about the penal substitution theory of the atonement, which is very popular today, particularly among conservative Evangelicals: Prior to Anselm, the main atonement theory used by the church was Christus Victor. Specifically, humanity was being held captive by the Devil and Christ died to free us [Read More...]

Sounds Like a Scam

I have said before that if depicting Jesus’ death as a legal transaction ends up making God seem unjust, you might want to rethink your analogy. Likewise if depicting Jesus’ offer of salvation makes him sound like a Nigerian banker, you might want to rethink your imagery.   [Read more...]


  David Hayward shared the above cartoon, about coping with post-traumatic church syndrome. It is a real condition. And for victims of abuse, a punching bag – whether literal or metaphorical – can play a crucial role in the healing process. But we also need to be careful. This is one of the reasons abuse [Read More...]

In Christ Alone

David French blogged about the Presbyterian Church USA removing the hymn “In Christ Alone” from its hymnal, because its authors refused a proposed change to the lyrics that did away with the notion of Christ’s death as satisfying God’s justice. It isn’t often that I agree with French, but I do when he writes: The [Read More...]

Spinning the Cross

David Hayward's latest cartoon will probably be controversial in some circles. But on one level, it reflects a very mainstream understanding of what happened in the early church. Jesus' followers thought he was destined to be king and restore the kingdom of David. They were so persuaded that, when the Romans crucified him, their belief [Read More...]

Hebrews 9: A Bloodbath

Hebrews 9 is the source of a couple of popular “memory verses” in conservative Evangelical circles. It was interesting to explore it in my Sunday school class today in a way that got at some key questions, both in terms of the exploration of the meaning of the text in its original context, and how [Read More...]

Gentiles and Crap

As we continued working our way through Hebrews today in my Sunday school class, the mention of the curtain (separating the holy place from the most holy place or “holy of holies”), and the lack of mention of the temple (the author focuses instead on the tabernacle), led us to a broader discussion of the [Read More...]

The Odious Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement

PZ Myers posted an entry on his blog with the title “Odious Christianity.” He is commenting on a tract that came his way which includes the following cartoon: After sharing it, he writes: Whoa, hang on there. How is justice served by punishing an innocent? So, with this judge, if I get a parking ticket [Read More...]

Class on the Crucifixion and Passion Narratives in the New Testament

Since this is another class without changing powerpoint slides, I’m making this one available as an mp3 podcast as well: [Read more...]